Time for the public to talk about geoengineering

Guest post by Gideon Futerman, founder and president of Worldward / April 5, 2019

[The views of guest post authors are their own. C2G2 does not necessarily endorse the opinions stated in guest posts. We do, however, encourage a constructive conversation involving multiple viewpoints and voices.]

While studying for A Level Geography last year in secondary school in the UK, two facts became increasingly clear to me. Firstly, climate change is the biggest issue of our time, and will exacerbate every single economic, social and political difficulty in the world today. Secondly, I learnt that the solutions we have today are simply not enough to solve this massive issue. To make changes on this scale requires time, and there is simply too much political inertia to make those changes in time.

If we are to combat climate change, we need to look to other solutions, on top of cutting emissions and adapting. The third part of our overall package of solutions to climate change is geoengineering.

That is why I and a few friends started Worldward in June 2018. We had a clear aim: to increase public discussion, open research and equitable governance of geoengineering, so any new solutions might be deployed or rejected in a way that benefits the world the most. We saw this desire amongst many promoting research and governance into geoengineering, but those voices weren’t yet united enough, nor focused enough on public engagement. Worldward wants to change that.

There are other organizations campaigning for this vision of properly researched and governed geoengineering, but Worldward is unique. That is because we are the only organization in the discussion run by young people: I am 15 years old, and the entire board of directors is under 17.

Geoengineering is the intentional engineering of the earth’s climate to combat climate change. It can take many forms, although these chiefly fit into two distinct categories: Carbon Dioxide Removal, where we remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and Solar Radiation Management, where we reflect more of the sun’s light.

Both have the potential to do widespread good– and harm. Solar Radiation Management tends to have more risks, and therefore requires far tighter governance than Carbon Dioxide Removal, although both require research and coordination. Certain Carbon Dioxide Removal approaches must be banned from being unilaterally deployed, whilst others should be encouraged, too. It all depends on the risks.

We need research to determine the potential of these solutions, and to minimize the risks. We need the governments of the world to put in place rules, and guidelines, to make it harder for someone to unilaterally just geoengineer in the riskier ways, and at the same time make it easier for a multilaterally, fully researched solution to be implemented, if necessary.

Whether we use or don’t use geoengineering will affect the youth more than any other generation. Young leaders are driving the conversation about climate change in countries across the world.It’s high time we were also included in the discussionabout geoengineering.

For geoengineering research and governance to have a mandate, a diverse, public conversation must take place, and that is key to what Worldward aims to do.

What are we doing?

Since we were founded last June, we have achieved a lot.

First, we created a website that clearly sets out our ideology, as well as containing openly accessible educational resources, which we are continuing to add to. We are also conducting interviews with key players in the geoengineering discussion, which we will soon be publishing on our YouTube for the public to see.

As a student, I see the power of education all around me – people who previously had no care for climate change can suddenly become avid activists when they learn of its dangers, and the potential to solve it. Knowledge is power. If the public has accessible information, we can’t be misled as easily, and so will have the power to help decide our own future.

We are also going into schools to run assemblies and other educational sessions. We’re just getting started, but we have received overwhelmingly positive responses from the handful of schools we have presented to so far.

We are furthermore working with those in power to try and promote geoengineering on a governmental level. We are currently working with a member of the UK’s House of Lords to challenge the UK government’s policy on geoengineering, and promote greater investment into research, and greater work on international governance of geoengineering.

Third, we are building up a network with connections to academics  and non-governmental organisations, like the Carbon Removal Network in the U.K., to give us a broad academic basis for our campaign. This has included attending events to promote our message of public participation in the geoengineering debate, such as a recent Chatham House event, organised in cooperation with C2G2, on Rethinking the Governance of Solar Geoengineering, and with the Carbon Removal Network.

If geoengineering research and governance is to be promoted, it requires far more connections and far more unity in the community promoting this. The connections above are key to what Worldward hopes to promote- a more unified front to promote geoengineering research and governance far better.

We have formulated a broad manifesto clearly setting out the beliefs of Worldward, and many others who want research and governance into geoengineering, which we invite anyone who shares its beliefs to sign (it can be found at www.worldward.org).

By clarifying our shared beliefs, we can present a far more unified front, so are far more likely to get our voices heard.

Moving to the people, moving worldward

As our network grows, we hope to bring together increasingly diverse voices behind this message of properly discussing, researching and governing geoengineering to provide a basis for potential deployment, or potential rejection, of technologies.

We believe without public education and discussion, geoengineering will have no feet to stand on. It’s not just the entrepreneur, the researcher, the campaigner and the policy maker that is vital to get this right. It’s the teenager, the mother, the father, the worker, the teacher, the concerned grandparent or the disgruntled civil servant. It’s everyone.

That is why we are inviting everyone tosign up at www.worldward.org/membership, even if they have very little idea about geoengineering. As long as you agree to our geoengineering policy, we want you on board. We want to open up the discussion and let everyday people get involved.

Currently we have everyone on board from children in school to experts in geoengineering, from England to Australia, from 12-year olds to 80 year olds. This conversation needs to happen, and all sorts of people must be involved.

As participation grows, so do the chances of geoengineering being discussed, researched and governed as part of a holistic solution to climate change, alongside adaptation and cutting emissions.

By spreading our message upwards towards power, and outward, towards the people, we are building a foundation to move Worldward,and to fulfil our purpose.

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